Supporting diverse approaches in the attainment of quality standards in international education

by Martin Kneath

What struck me the most during my formative years of learning about the educative process was how little I knew. That was soon after qualifying as a teacher in 1972. Since then, I’ve had plenty of classroom experience and leadership roles and can identify three main influences that have shaped my approach to teaching and learning. They eventually lead me from the UK to Bangkok and to my role in the evaluation of school standards. I support schools around SE Asia to meet international standards that acknowledge their commitment to developing global citizens, teaching to high standards, leading inter-culturally, and safeguarding their students.

As I reflect on three influences on my teaching and learning journey through the lens of my current school evaluation role, I’m proud and reassured that an international framework of standards can be so adaptive to supporting diverse schools with such differentiated teaching practices, while maintaining a global standard. The first influence on my approach to teaching and learning was working for a very forward-thinking husband and wife team in the mid-seventies who recognised that some children needed specific and individualised support for their learning difficulties. In hindsight, I think that helped me understand more about the way in which children learned, particularly mathematics, and incidentally, how I learned too, because my own education was not auspicious at all. And while coaching a range of sports, I was exposed to such a wide variety of abilities and skills that I began to think very carefully about how to develop and nurture, not only the more natural athletes but also those who were not so natural.

child-cuteThis kind of differentiated learning is celebrated by CIS. While the accreditation process is rigorous and firmly places great responsibility on the school to ensure that it meets the exacting standards, what CIS requires is not prescriptive; rather, a recognition that each school and its culture and students are unique and that one model that works for one school, does not necessarily work or is appropriate for another. So the support that each school receives when a CIS evaluation team visits them is focused on their unique set up. The second influential experience was when a group of us, teachers, decided that there was a need to create and develop a mathematics course designed to recognise children’s different learning styles and needs, and that ‘class teaching’ was not the be all and end all of the learning process. The development of the course included initial discussion about content, the order in which topics were introduced, the process of scaffolding the learning, and use of skills. The decision to create characters who interacted with each other (and who appeared in the text as, almost, cartoon-like characters, and who ‘grew up’ as the course developed), enabled children to recognise their own insecurities about learning and to enjoy a subject, which to them was hitherto a very frightening experience. The texts were drafted, shared, dissected, re-drafted, trialled in school, and finalised after further discussion — an experience which was a very deep learning process for each of us, let alone the children!

The ongoing professional development of educators and the support of school leadership teams to encourage the exploration and coordination of innovative teaching practices demonstrates that a school places importance on continual improvement. Membership and accreditation at CIS are not tick-box exercises, the evaluation process and accreditation protocol is designed to reward, celebrate and encourage ongoing development and improvements. The third influence on my pedagogical philosophy was Dr Kurt Hahn’s own approach, that children had so much more to learn outside the classroom, what is described as a holistic approach to education. Children benefit from learning about themselves, how they can challenge themselves, how they think ‘outside’ the box, how they work collaboratively together, how they show compassion and integrity and how they begin to understand what it means to be a global citizen. It was this influence that had a bearing of our move to Bangkok, myself to take on the principal’s role at The Regent’s International School, and my wife Ailsa to continue her passion for Early Years Education. The Regent’s International School is a member of the Round Square organisation, one that espouses Dr Kurt Hahn’s empirical holistic pedagogy.

celebrationIt’s essential that while schools and educators do the hard work of actually delivering their school’s academic agenda and nurturing and protecting in the children in their care, that frameworks of accreditation like ours at CIS are there to support them by providing underlying foundational standards. A crucial aspect is our child protection and safeguarding standards with accompanying teacher workshops and resources. It means that schools are evaluated to deliver comprehensive, effective education and support for children and young adults, and can also focus on their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. We’ve got a team of global experts behind us to ensure that we have appropriate advice and guidance because we are part of the International Taskforce on Child Protection, helping us to empower teachers and school leaders to educate their communities and develop capacity to identify, respond, prevent and manage all aspects of abuse and child protection.

It doesn’t end when your children leave school. One of the ‘tricks up our sleeve’ is that our membership community is uniquely made up of both schools and higher education institutions. This not only means that we can connect and match students with universities around the world who are looking for their particular competencies, but it means that a shared focus across our community of a student’s wellbeing continues as they make their transition from secondary school and into higher education. It’s been a privilege to work in these varied roles of educator, school leader and evaluator. I’m uniquely placed to continue learning about the educative process, the journey I started so many years ago, and that has lead to such an enriched life I Bangkok and supporting my peers in schools across SE Asia.

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